Last week, technical difficulties prevented us from presenting this post in full. We now run it in its entirety.
Mrs. Cooper was my fourth grade teacher. I remember her (from the vantage point of a half century past) as an “older” woman with graying hair that probably had been blonde. Of course, as a fourth grader, I had no clue as to her actual age. All I know is that looked older than my mother who was 31 years old as I began fourth grade. She wore glasses which she kept on a chain around her neck. She dressed conservatively. I don’t recall her voice, but she liked to laugh when laughter was called for. Somehow, I associated her with the term “grandmother,” but I’ve subsequently learned that she was not ever a grandmother.
She liked to laugh when laughter was called for.
Here’s what I’ve learned about Mrs Cooper 50 years later:
Theodora Erikson was born in Oscoda Township, Iosco County [1. There is also an Oscoda County], Michigan, near the shores of Lake Huron on 22 January 1907 [2. Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.
Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration]. She was the seventh of nine children[3. Source Citation: Year: 1920;Census Place: Oscoda, Iosco, Michigan; Roll: T625_773; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 187; Image: 673],[4. Obituary of Theodora Cooper, Albuquerque Journal, 10 June 2006] of Charles Severin Erikson (8 Mar 1862-9 Jan 1933)[5. Ancestry.com. Michigan, Deaths and Burials Index, 1867-1995 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011], [6. Index to Death Records: 1867-1952, AuSable & Oscoda Townships, Michigan; Huron Shores Genealogy Society, 2000, found at Michigan GenWeb Archives, http://files.usgwarchives.net/mi/iosco/hsgs/vital/vit_dr2.txt] and Natale Erikson (7 Jun 1873-2 Aug 1941)[6. Ancestry.com. Michigan, Deaths and Burials Index, 1867-1995 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011], [7. Index to Death Records: 1867-1952, AuSable & Oscoda Townships, Michigan; Huron Shores Genealogy Society, 2000, found at Michigan GenWeb Archives, http://files.usgwarchives.net/mi/iosco/hsgs/vital/vit_dr2.txt], who had come to America from Sweden in the 1880s. Charles Erikson worked in construction for the township road department.
(Mrs Cooper never mentioned her status as a first-generation American, nor anything about her Swedish heritage. How interesting that might have been to our class!)
“Teddy,” as she was called, attended Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti[8. 1926 Aurora Yearbook, Michigan State Normal School, Ypsilanti, Michigan; E-yearbook.com, http://www.e-yearbook.com/sp/eybb?school=692&year=1926 (hereafter, “1926 Aurora”).]. She was active in the Euclidian Club [9. a club devoted to getting stuednts “to see the fun in mathematics,”[10. 1926 Aurora, p. 347]. This activity would serve her well in her later career. Teddy was also an active member of the Upsilon chapter of Theta Lambda Sigma sorority. [11. 1926 Aurora Yearbook, p. 178].
Teddy eventually earned a Lifetime Certificate in Teaching from the Michigan State Normal School[12. Obituary of Theodora Cooper, Albuquerque Journal, 10 July 2006](the school is now known as Eastern Michigan University). She taught in several rural and urban communities, including the village of Harrisville in Alcona County, Michigan[8. Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Harrisville, Alcona, Michigan; Roll: 972; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 7; Image: 59.0. Source Information:Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.]
She met and married Ray Cooper, a physician, and they took up residence in Albuquerque, New Mexico[13. I haven’t been able to adequately source this.] In Albuquerque, Teddy earned a Bachelors of Science degree in education from the University of New Mexico in 1948 [14. Largest Class in History of University to Sally Forth June 7, Albuquerque Journal, 16 May 1948, p4., col. 2]. When she thereafter began teaching for the Albuquerque Public Schools, Mrs Cooper was assigned to the elementary school at the semi-secret atomic weapons installation in southeast Albuquerque[15. “Names of 1025 Principals, Teachers, Aides Listed,” The Albuquerque Tribune, 21 Aug 1952, pp. 10-11, col. 1] known as Sandia Base.
Sandia Base was the follow-on to the Manhattan Project and thus was the nation’s premier nuclear weapons base throughout most of the Cold War[16. See ibid]. At Sandia Base Elementary School, Teddy Cooper taught the children of highly trained military personnel and civilian nuclear scientists. She spent twenty-five years at Sandia Base Elementary School before retiring.
Mrs. Cooper became very popular with her students, her colleagues, and the Sandia Base parents. She frequently teamed with her friend and colleague, Nathalie Harshman, to team-teach various subjects[19. See. e.g., Three R’s Program set at Sandia Base School, Albuquerque Journal, 5 November 1954, p. 23. col. 1] Around the state of New Mexico, she was regarded as an expert in the teaching of arithmetic, and frequently was called upon to attend teacher conferences to demonstrate her techniques[17. Arithmetic Course Offered Teachers, Albuquerque Journal, 6 July 1962, p. C-7, col. 1] She also enjoyed and excelled at the teaching of reading.
(I always thought of her as a reading specialist. My reading skills took a quantum leap forward under Mrs. Cooper’s tutelage and the use of the relatively new SRA Reading Laboratory, which I enjoyed immensely. She read to us and had us read parts of sevreal books, including Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Dolittle. I’ve never seen an adult laugh as hard as Mrs Cooper did watching my classmate Billy Smith do his impression of the Hefalump!)
Teddy Cooper was active in the Association of American University Women and the New Mexico Council of Teachers of Mathematics [20. Obituary of Theodora Cooper, Albuquerque Journal, 10 July 2006]. She founded the Junior Red Cross chapter at Sandia Base Elementary School[18. Junior Red Cross to be Sonsored by 40 Teachers, Albuquerque Journal, 15 October 1962, p. 29, col 1] She was especially empathic with a great sense of humor.
Mrs. Cooper, the daughter of Swedish immigrants and a transplant to New Mexico from Michigan, taught us Spanish. After a year with her, I had nearly the same fluency as someone of comparable age who had been raised in the language. I was especially pleased that she selected me to play El mal lobo in the class production of Los Tres Cerditos.
On Friday, November 22, 1963, Mrs. Cooper had dismissed our class for lunch. When we returned, most of us had already heard the tragic news and were not surprised to find our fourth grade teacher weeping openly over the murder of the President of the United States [24. President Kennedy Assassinated; Sniper Wounds Governor of Texas, The Albuquerque Tribune, 22 November 1963, p.1 (Extra Edition)] The President had visited Sandia Base less than a year earlier and his motorcade had passed down Wyoming Boulevard which ran directly adjacent to the school’s front lawn [21. JFK Heads for Albuquerque, The Albuquerque Tribune, 7 December 1962, p.1], Over the next several weeks, Mrs Cooper made special efforts to help her students cope with the emotional depression that had settled like a fog over the entire nation.
Teddy’s husband, Ray, died an early death and she never re-married. They had one child, Foster Cooper [22. Brides to be: Thomson, Cooper, Albuquerque Journal, 13 December 1970, p. B-11]
Theodora Erikson Cooper died on Sunday, June 4, 2006 [23. Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index (database on-line) Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.], [24. Obituary of Theodora Cooper, Albuquerque Journal, 10 July 2006].
She was 99 years old. She is buried in Oscoda, Michigan.
Special Thanks to the Huron Shores Genealogical Society of Iosco County, Michigan, for their great resources which contributed to this piece!
December 23, 2011 Friday at 11:18 pm